Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Gaming Company Ga Ga Over Gays

The gaming industry has a well-deserved reputation for being male- and especially straight-male oriented. As a straight (but not narrow) male  player myself - who has had to read the homophobic, racial, and general innuendo on the online chats of various games - I am all too often embarrassed by the community. However, one game company, BioWare, has stood up for the rights of all in their new game and I applaud them for the game design and their standing up for that decision.

BioWare's Dragon Age game allowed players to have pretty graphic relationships. Now in their Dragon Age 2 sequel, those relationships can be with a game character of the same sex. This is not an MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online) game so it is just you and the pixelated game characters, but it seems some ignorant and intolerant players still were offended when male characters (not players) put the moves on them. It's not like it is a player than can keep harassing them, you just move on away from the character and ignore it. But they started a ridiculous post on the chat forums claiming harassment and ignoring the 'straight male gamer'.

Bioware stood up not only for their decision but also against intolerance and ignorance. As summarized on this post on the gay web site After Elton: 'Basically, they told him to get over it and that they weren't going to cater to his need for heterosexual privilege'

The entire BioWare response is repeated here:

The romances in the game are not for "the straight male gamer". They're for everyone. We have a lot of fans, many of whom are neither straight nor male, and they deserve no less attention. We have good numbers, after all, on the number of people who actually used similar sorts of content in DAO and thus don't need to resort to anecdotal evidence to support our idea that their numbers are not insignificant... and that's ignoring the idea that they don't have just as much right to play the kind of game they wish as anyone else. The "rights" of anyone with regards to a game are murky at best, but anyone who takes that stance must apply it equally to both the minority as well as the majority. The majority has no inherent "right" to get more options than anyone else.

More than that, I would question anyone deciding they speak for "the straight male gamer" just as much as someone claiming they speak for "all RPG fans", "all female fans" or even "all gay fans". You don't. If you wish to express your personal desires, then do so. I have no doubt that anyopinion expressed on these forums is shared by many others, but since none of them have elected a spokesperson you're better off not trying to be one. If your attempt is to convince BioWare developers, I can tell you that you do in fact make your opinion less convincing by doing so.

And if there is any doubt why such an opinion might be met with hostility, it has to do with privilege. You can write it off as "political correctness" if you wish, but the truth is that privilege always lies with the majority. They're so used to being catered to that they see the lack of catering as an imbalance. They don't see anything wrong with having things set up to suit them, what's everyone's fuss all about? That's the way it should be, any everyone else should be used to not getting what they want.

The truth is that making a romance available for both genders is far less costly than creating an entirely new one. Does it create some issues of implementation? Sure-- but anything you try on this front is going to have its issues, and inevitably you'll always leave someone out in the cold. In this case, are all straight males left out in the cold? Not at all. There are romances available for them just the same as anyone else. Not all straight males require that their content be exclusive, after all, and you can see that even on this thread.

Would I do it again? I don't know. I doubt I would have Anders make the first move again-- at the time, I thought that requiring all romances to have Hawke initiate everything was the unrealistic part. Even if someone decides that this makes everyone "unrealistically" bisexual, however, or they can't handle the idea that the character might be bisexual if they were another PC... I don't see that as a big concern, to be honest. Romances are never one-size-fits-all, and even for those who don't mind the sexuality issue there's no guarantee they'll find a character they even want to romance. That's why romances are optional content. It's such a personal issue that we'll never be able to please everyone. The very best we can do is give everyone a little bit of choice, and that's what we tried here.

And the person who says that the only way to please them is to restrict options for others is, if you ask me, the one who deserves it least. And that's my opinion, expressed as politely as possible.

Very Well-Met BioWare!